Hug the Monster



Franklin Roosevelt, Blakemore goes on, was practicing “a form of meta-psychology, asking Americans to think about their own psychology, in this case their fear, asking them to get their minds around it, embrace it, and, in a way, to become their own shrinks — to examine their fears and try to convert them into effective action, to get on with it.” In his article, Blakemore develops an extraordinary metaphor for dealing with fear and transforming it into “realistic hope.”. I’ll present here a summary and abridgement of the article.

Hug the Monster

A Metaphor to Change Fear Into Action

and Transform Your Fearful Inner Climate


“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way.

The monster is your fear in a sudden crisis — as when you find yourself trapped in a downed plane or a burning house.

If you freeze or panic — if you go into merely reactive “brainlock” — you’re lost.

But if your mind has been prepared in advance to recognize the psychological grip of fear, focus on it, and then transform its intense energy into action — sometimes even by changing it into anger — and by also engaging the thinking part of your brain to work the problem, your chances of survival go way up.

Around the world, a growing number of people are showing signs of hugging the monster of what the world’s experts have plainly shown to be a great crisis facing us all….

Sooner or later, everyone who learns about the rapid advance of manmade global warming must deal with the question of fear.

What to do about this fear?

Hug the Monster: How Fear Can Save Your Life

This is the title of a chapter in The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, a book written by ABC’s Ben Sherwood before he became president of ABC News:

Nowhere in the book does Sherwood mention climate change, but here’s a passage from the end of that chapter that struck this reporter for its relevance to the increasingly public questions about how our global civilization will deal with the advance of global warming:

Fear as a Security System — When Properly Used (Air Force Mantra)

“Without a doubt, fear is the most ancient, efficient, and effective security system in the world. Over many thousands of years, our magnificently wired brains have sensed, reacted, and then acted upon every imaginable threat. Practically speaking, when you manage fear, your chances improve in almost every situation. But if your alarms go haywire, your odds plummet.”

He concludes:

For survival then, here’s the bottom line. If you’re scared out of your mind, try to remember this Air Force mantra: Hug The monster. Wrap your arms around fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack. ‘Survival is not about bravery and heroics,’ award-winning journalist Laurence Gonzales writes in his superb book Deep Survival. ‘Survivors aren’t fearless. They use fear: They turn it into anger and focus.’ The good news is that you can learn to subdue the monster and extinguish some of the clanging bells. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Indeed, with enough hugs, you can even tame the beast and turn him into your best friend and most dependable ally.”

Romm: “Here is Blakemore’s advice for journalists covering this most important of stories:

As a growing number of professional journalists around the world are finding, the story of manmade global warming (and the other evil twin of excess carbon emissions, the rapid acidification of the oceans) is unprecedented in its scale, almost “too big to cover,” and frightening.

But there are now signs that, little by little, voices and personalities are beginning to emerge around the world who are starting to hug this monster, manage the fear, and turning the emotions it causes into action.

For us journalists, the core responsibilities of our profession include knowing how to report unpleasant but important facts — and to do so in ways that nonetheless engage groups small and large, even in a sense “entertain” them, as in entertaining the mind, and to try to win their tacit appreciation for doing so.

Obviously, when the news is horrendous, such as, say, a looming world war or the rapid climb in global temperature and ocean acidification, our job includes the very essence of what it means to hug the monster.

But as this reporter and a growing number of others now working the story can report, once we do so, manmade global warming transforms into “a great story” (in our profession’s term of art) — and even one in which it is possible to glimpse a number of reasons for “realistic hope.”